Trip Start Jul 23, 2007
Trip End Aug 23, 2007

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I had booked in for canyoning and rafting this morning. I wasn't so fussed about the rafting (as I think I've been down some of the best rapids in the world in Uganda) but really wanted to do some proper canyoning as I missed out in New Zealand, having to do the gentle 'glowworm walk' instead a few years ago with the rest of the bus. So I got up early, and met the 2 other people coming with me to Fraternitz canyon for our day of fun! 90 minutes later, we started off by donning wetsuits, which I was very grateful for later- the water was rather chilly especially as it was drizzling in the morning. The first challenge was getting to the start of the canyon. Obviously to come down the jumps, waterfalls and slides you had to start by going up to the start of the canyon, which was a 20 minute steep hike uphill. Normally, no problem, but remember, we were doing this in rather restrictive wetsuits, which made it quite a bit harder! Finally we reached the top, and were given a safety briefing, before heading off. We clambered over rocks, through pools, and then reached our first slide. The slides are natural, in the rockface, and you lie down, sliding forward and then normally dropping into the pool below. Our guide was very keen to point out the water was 'refreshing' not 'cold'!

He was however, looking at the big black clouds gathering overhead with increasing concern. Apparently it's not safe to canyon in the rain- as this particular canyon in between two mountain ranges, all the water runs off into the canyon, meaning the water levels can rise very fast. There are 'get out' points throughout the canyon, so he assured us that we'd be able to leave if need be. So, all moving rather fast, we continued down more slides, jumps and best of all, rapelling. Rather than abseilling, we just sat in a harness while our guide lowered us down the steep drops, but it was so much fun! Most of the time we had to climp down ourselves, but the highlight was a 50m waterfall. We were lowered down, face first, against the rockface, until the rockface fell away, and we were left hovering, in the middle of the waterfall, as our guide lowered us to the pool below. Fantastic! I just ended up laughing the whole way down, it was so much fun! While I was waiting for the others to get down, I heard a huge rumble of thunder... not a good sign. By the time Rachel had joined me, they were becoming more frequent, and while the 3 of us were waiting for the guide to get himself down, lightning had started. Hm. We went down one more rapel to get to the 'get out' point, and had to call it a day, as the rain was by then chucking down. I was quite disappointed, as canyoning was the main thing I had wanted to do, and we'd only managed to get about 2/3 of the way through, but I suppose the guide knows best, as it's on his head if anything goes wrong!

So by the time we had driven to Bovec, where the rafting left from, we had over an hour to kill. Cue the hot chocolate in a cafe, methinks. Slightly warmed up, we join another team for the rafting, and put on dry wetsuits (thank god for that!) I was slightly concerned by the fact that this morning (in supposedly the warmer waters), we had full wetsuits and this afternoon only half (i.e. arms not covered), but figured I'd be OK. The rain stopped just as we were getting on the Soca river- there were 2 rafts, and a few hydrospeeders (basically swimming down the rapids with a float). The scenery was actually quite similar to when I went rafting in New Zealand, but the rapids were very gentle. Grade 2 or maybe 3 at most. Still, it was fun! The guides tried to make it as exciting as possible, sending the edge of a raft shooting up on the side of a rock whenever possible, making us crash into things (this *was* on purpose, I'm sure). There were also 2 jumps- one only a few meters, the other 7, nearly as high as the one I did in New Zealand. The jumps themselves were fine, but when you're in the water, your arms hurt so much from the cold! So I tried to stay out of the water as much as possible. As we were coming to the end, the guide, who looked a bit like Chris Klein, said he had to do a shoe check... I should have suspected something from the offset. He came down my end of the boat, picked up my foot and chucked me in the river, following suit with everyone else. Sooo cold!

They had an interesting way of carrying the raft, too- on our heads. We were all, of course, wearing helmets, but being a good 5 inches taller than everyone else, I ended up with the majority of the weight. It was only for a few minutes, but I already felt like my neck was going to snap by the time I got up to the top- I don't know how those women carry pails of water on their head for hours!! Still, it reminded me of carrying rowing boats up hills- I always ended up with the lion's share of weight then too, what a hinderance being the tallest is :)

We drove back to Bovec for dinner- the rain had started again, but there was no room inside. So we sat, shivering outside, warmed only by a mug of fruit tea. What I'd give to be sitting inside in an English country pub by the fire, looking out at the rain. I slept on the way back, and was greeted with a 'Good morning' from our guide when I got back... I don't know how anyone can sit in a warm, gently rocking car after a long day and not fall asleep! I went back to my room afterwards, but decided to go in search of a comfy sofa where I could sit nursing a hot cuppa and finish my book. I ended up in one of the 5* hotels, sitting on a very posh sofa with panoramic views of the lake. My cup of tea and slice of cake cost 7 euros... but was worth it.

The next morning I spent mostly on the internet (found it free in the library which was handy) as it was drizzling and the mist was so low you couldn't even see the castle. I felt like we were actually inside a cloud. The sun did make an appearance later, so I walked around to St Martin's church, which you know, is another church. Nice location though. I went back to the popular restaurant for lunch, but ended up taking it half of it away for dinner. After some souvenier shopping, I had an hour long massage- I can only afford them when I'm away- and then wondered what to do. I was getting a bit bored, so decided to move on, and go to Nova Goriza, the border town with Italy tonight, to give me a few more hours in Venice tomorrow. I took an 11 euro 5 minute taxi ride to the station and bought the 5 euro 2 hour train ticket to the border. At the station, I met a French couple, Jean-Philippe and Natalie who were hitchiking through Europe, and had to get back to Toulouse, their home town, by Tuesday for some big carnival. We had a while until the train, so sat chatting with the fantastic views over the lake you get from the station. As the departure time neared, I loaded up and crossed the road to the station, to see the train pull into the opposite platform! As there wasn't anyone else getting on, we nearly missed it, but just about got on in time.
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